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In the fall of 1963, Moses proposed a massive project for the following summer—a campaign aimed at breaking the back of Mississippi's closed political system. Civil rights groups would join forces with Northern charitable foundations, student activists, and religious groups. Moses had already teamed up with activist Allard Lowenstein, who had recruited a number of mostly white students from Stanford and Yale to help with Mississippi voter registration efforts in 1963. The centerpiece of the plan for 1964: to invite up to a thousand such Northern volunteers. They would help register black Mississippians for the vote—and sign them up in a new party, the Mississippi Freedom Democrats.

But the plan prompted sharp debate within SNCC. The group prided itself on practicing integration. It had a few white staff members from its beginnings. But some on the mostly black SNCC staff in Mississippi opposed a large infusion of white Northerners. They wanted black Mississippians to build their own movement and win their own freedom. Others argued bringing in whites was the only way to force the nation to confront the reality of Mississippi.

"It was damned if you do and damned if you don't, that's all," says Moses. "But that was Mississippi."

The argument raged within SNCC until January of 1964, when word came of yet another killing.

"Lot of people do night hunting and stuff up there, so it's not unusual to hear gunshots in January at night," says Henry Allen, now a construction contractor a Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "And my grandfather, he say he heard 'em too, said it sounded like about three of 'em."

Henry Allen was 18 years old when his father, Louis, was shot dead at their front gate outside of Liberty, Mississippi. Louis Allen was a logger and farmer. He had been an eyewitness two years earlier when the white state legislator, E.H. Hurst, killed Herbert Lee for trying to register black voters. Allen told friends that Hurst's claim of shooting Lee in self-defense was a lie; the killing was cold-blooded. But under threats and harassment from local police and other whites, Allen had declined to testify against Hurst. Still the threats continued. Despite pleas from the civil rights movement, the FBI refused to protect Allen. On that January night, his son Henry came home from a date and found him in the front yard.

"Oh, he was just mutilated," Henry Allen says. "You shoot a person in the head with a shotgun at close range, I mean—just chaos, man. I never wanted my mama or my little sister to ever see him. My mama wanted to go down to that road, but she'd have stroked, she'd have probably died right there. It's just too much to look at, somebody that close to you. 'Cause we was close people."

No one was ever charged with the murder. At the news of Allen's death, Bob Moses ended the debate about the proposed Mississippi summer project. "It was my decision to move it," he says decades later. "And what moved me was Louis's murder. That was it."

A civil rights coalition, led by SNCC and the Congress of Racial Equality, or CORE, announced plans for what would come to be known as Freedom Summer—a peaceful campaign to bring democracy to Mississippi. Besides college students and teachers, several hundred lawyers, medical professionals and clergy would descend on the state. Mississippi politicians and newspaper editors bristled at the planned "invasion" by "outside agitators." The Ku Klux Klan and another racist group, the White Citizens Council, issued threats.


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